Category Archives: Gaming
Video Games, RPGs like D&D, Other MMOs
In case you’re not a Final Fantasy fan, there’s a bit of a hot topic spinning around in fan circles about the latest installment of the series, Final Fantasy XV. It pertains to the bonus dungeon, Pitioss Ruins, that can be found after the game is complete by taking your flying car over the mountains and landing on a pain in the ass small strip of land. From there you run up the hill and after the sun goes down you can enter the Ruins which has less to do with the rest of the game and more in common with games like VVVVVVVV or I Want To Be The Boshy joining forces with some insidious Little Big Planet levels. Precision jumps, instant death spikes, tons of bottomless pits, and plenty of puzzles. It’s a frustrating and yet suprisingly entertaining dungeon that had me less annoyed with each death and more so piecing together a solution or strategy.
However, the current “theory” or simply fan wank making the rounds right now is that this dungeon holds the key to understanding the entire game’s backstory and motivations for the villains.
To break it down simply, it posits that Ifrit, the second to last boss of the game, broke free of Titan’s imprisonment, ventured into the Underworld, traversed the Doomtrain to reach the afterlife, and freed the Goddess Eos who was locked away by the Astrals because she was pregnant with twin demi-god children (noted by the item the Genji Glove found in the statues belly button. Genji roughly translating to ‘Two Beginnings’.) These twin children would be the founding members of the House of Lucis, possibly Ardyn and Izunia (The Izunia thing is a WHOLE other rant), and would eventually give rise to Noctis. (If you want more detail, there is a great video by Final Fantasy Peasant that breaks the whole thing down here. It’s also where I got the lovely image at the top.)
At first glance, it’s a great idea. It explains why Ifrit turned against the other Astrals, Ardyn’s desire for revenge, why only the lineage of Lucis can use the Ring of the Lucii, and their connection to the Crystal. Damn. What a great theory. Boy is it clever.
I have a few problems with it though. (Shocker.)
A lot of the theory seems to be based heavily on Greek Mythology. No surprise there. The game itself draws heavily on Greek Mythology to tell its story especially when it comes to names and themes. However, the Pitioss Ruins theory goes beyond this and simply assumes at face value that if X happened with equivalent characters in the Greek myth, then the equivalent must be true in Final Fantasy XV. So things like “Eos was imprisoned for loving a mortal and having half-god children” is based solely on the idea that “It’s how an Olympian God would react” with no basis whatsoever in the mythology or story of Final Fantasy XV. There is zero evidence to back up the idea that the Astrals would be angry by this. This is just slapping in frog DNA to fill in the holes of your dino DNA and saying that it was always intended to be like that.
Secondly, the theory throws in concepts that are wholly foreign to the game as if they were just matter of fact things. For instance, the theory states quite plainly that Ifrit descended to the Underworld to find the Goddess Eos by riding Doomtrain. Okay. One, there is no “Underworld” ever mentioned in the game at any point as part of their mythology. Two, no where is the contraption in the Ruins called Doomtrain nor is the concept of Doomtrain ever mentioned let alone as the ‘Sole means of reaching the afterlife’ in Final Fantasy XV. This description from Doomtrain comes from other games, which is a bad practice since in no other Final Fantasy game is Bahamut a giant dude in a suit of dragon armor.
Finally, the Goddess Eos? The Goddess that is central to this entire theory? Not in the game. She’s not. Eos is the name of the world that the game takes place on. Beyond that it’s even more fan theory based on random comments made by developers. That the character in the logo is the ‘most important goddess’ despite never having a name and only appearing in the logo and one painting at the beginning (Oh, and after you beat the game it shows quite plainly who that sleeping figure is supposed to be, and she ain’t Eos.) So if there’s a super important goddess, and the world is called Eos, then that must be the goddess Eos right? Sure, why not. Except that nowhere is that backed up in the game. We know who all six Astrals are. We know that there were gods who left after creating the world and the Astrals but were never named. So how do we know this is a goddess? Well, mostly because this used to be based on the Fabula Nova Crystallis and in that there was a super important goddess named ‘Etro’ who was trapped in the ‘Unseen World’ (World of the Dead, Underworld.) But all of that lore was scrapped and only used as a template for ideas (Bhunivelze = Unknown Creator, Fal’Cie = Astrals, l’Cie = Lucii.)
So this theory is built on another theory and uses more theories to fill in the gaps. What’s actually canon to the game? That there’s a dungeon called of the Pitioss Ruins and there’s some statues in it one of which looks like Ifrit. That’s about it.
But what’s the problem, Vry? I hear you ask. It’s just a harmless fan theory, right? Well, yea and no. There are plenty of folks who are seeing this theory and turning around and shouting F#%& TABATA AND SQUARE ENIX FOR RUINING THIS GENIUS PLOT going along with the idea that if this had stayed Final Fantasy Versus XIII or that if Nomura had stayed on the project that this plot would have become fully fleshed out in the unknowable amount of time it would have taken to get finished (Don’t get me wrong, I like Nomura alright but the man is a hardcore creative and needs to some serious reining in if you want to put him in charge of a project or else he’ll just keep coming up with new ideas and trying to work them in).
So this theory is now being used as ‘Proof’ against the developers, and that’s where I felt like I should step up and use my corner of the web to try and remind folks that this is just a theory and one based on a LOT of conjecture. It explains a lot, but that’s fairly easy to do when you construct the entire argument from random bits and pieces of unrelated material. You can just as convincingly say that Eos was a Titan in Greek Mythology and Titan is an Astral, so Eos might be the mother of Titan as well. Which would make Noctis and Titan related, which would explain why they were mentally linked and the first Astral that Noctis forged a covenant with. See! It all fits! It must be true! Other than I pulled it out of my rump.
Fan Theories are great. But they are theories. They are not canon. They are not backdoors into the game developers’ minds. Need I bring the Game Theorists’ “Sans is Ness” Undertale/Earthbound theory? Great theory. So not canon.
But then why all the mysteries around the backstory of FFXV? I don’t know. Maybe because a lot of it wasn’t vitally important to the immediate situation. My own theory on that (HA!) is that it might be a leftover concept from the Versus XIII days when the game was described as portrayed the affairs of gods through the eyes of a mortal. Like war between the Astrals but only the given context of what a mere mortal would see or understand. Do I know for certain? Heck no. But hey… it fits, doesn’t it?
So lately, I’ve been playing a lot of Kingdom Hearts: Dream Drop Distance HD as part of the 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue collection (And that’s a mouthful.) I tried to play it before on the 3DS but something about the strange and unfamiliar mechanics (I had never played Birth By Sleep when I tried it so the Command Board was weird, plus the Dream Eaters) and the smaller screen between the controls seem to just give me an all around hard time getting into the game. So I figured that now I’ve solved some of those issues I could try it again on my TV. Turns out, it works a lot better.
Learning the Game
I figured since Dream Drop Distance introduces a bunch of weird mechanics that I’d share some tips that I’ve kind of figured out over the course of playing to make it easier. The first of which would have to be the return of the Command Board. A familiar installment to those who played through Birth by Sleep on the PSP or as part of the II.5 collection, the Command Board is pretty much all of your special attacks and moves be they special keyblade attacks or spells. They each have a separate cooldown that is affected by your Attack or Magic Haste stat. You start with a few slots but the list will expand as you continue through the game. The command board is your bread & butter in combat. I generally only do normal attacks once I’ve put most of my attack commands on cooldown to fill the gap. They do WAY more damage and have more Area damage options that your normal attacks. Don’t be afraid to experiment and find what attacks work better for your playstyle. I tend to favor the “dive” attacks because they do area damage which is good for clearing out clusters of enemies which is very helpful when grinding.
The second big mechanic to keep in mind is the Dream Eaters. Much like Pokemon Amie meets Nintendogs, you create these little spirits and can groom and pet them to your hearts content. But why you would want to do so was confusing to me for a long time. See, these little guys are more important than just being your fill in party members since Donald & Goofy are off doing their own thing during the adventure. These little guys also give you your abilities. Abilities being things like ‘Attack Haste’ or ‘Second Chance’ or ‘Magic Boost’. How you get these is from a Dream Eaters’ ability link grid. You spend Link Points to unlock nodes on the grid that grant Abilities or Commands. And you get Link Points from leveling your Dream Eaters in combat, playing minigames or yes, petting them. Petting them is especially important because petting or poking them in certain places can change their ‘Disposition’ (aka what attacks they use in combat) and a new disposition can unlock extra paths on the Link Grid (It’s the only way to 100% their grids.)
The other thing about Dream Eater abilities is which are permanent and which only apply when the Dream Eater is in your party. Essentially ‘Stat Abilities’ (The blue ones on the ability screen, or the ones with the dream eater logo on the grid) only apply when that Dream Eater is in your party. The ‘Support Abilities’ (Red abilities or Red Orbs on grid), ‘Spirit Abilities’ (Purple Abilities or Purple Orbs on Grid) and any commands (Wizard Hat & Key icons) you got are permanently unlocked for both Sora and Riku.
Flowmotion is the final mechanic and I don’t think I can really do it justice in text. It essentially allows you to jump massive distances, up walls, and perform new attacks. It takes get some used to but once you get the hang of it, you’ll be able to reach new areas, treasure chests, and skip a bunch of tedious jumping. Don’t worry if you can’t get the hang of it though. I’ve yet to encounter anything that you can’t get through normal jumping (or high jumping.) There’s even some stuff like a friendly animal that you can ride on to reach areas in some worlds. So you don’t NEED flowmotion, but it can make things easier/quicker.
The Pieces Fall Together
The other thing I’m really enjoying about Dream Drop Distance is that it is taking the time to finally start piecing the story together from all the various spin offs that the series has had since KH2 came out in preparation of well, the final chapter. Tying in titles like 358/2 Days, Birth By Sleep and Re:Coded to the current going ons with Riku & Sora really helps to make the picture complete and help you to figure out how all of this fits together into a single story. If you haven’t played one of the games, or you can’t remember, you’ll eventually unlock “Chronicles” which are text summaries of the events of each of the games.
However, the story isn’t flawless. Mostly when it comes down to the individual worlds. Of the first three ‘movie inspired’ worlds you go to – La Cites des Cloches (Hunchback of Notre Dame), The Grid (Tron: Legacy) and Prankster’s Paradise (Pinnochio) – two of them don’t put a lot of effort to weave Sora or Riku into the narrative of the ongoing plot like many of the other games did. In fact, in the Grid it feels like our heroes aren’t even there half the time as the game just reenacts random scenes from the movies without context as Sora & Riku stand in the background. Oh there’s scenes that advance Sora & Riku’s story as well, but they have little to nothing to do with the events of the world’s story. Usually it involves Young Xehanort showing up with one of his many incarnations to taunt or mysteriously hint at things at our heroes before departing back to parts unknown. I’m not going to say it’s a game breaker, but damn if it doesn’t just let the air out of any enthusiasm of going to the various worlds.
On that note, I’m not sure Square Enix quite understood the plot of the Hunchback of Notre Dame. Because the random aspects they chose to focus on – and they are random. Like the one scene with Pheobus & Esmerelda’s spontaneous romance with zero development that only makes sense if you’ve seen the movie – seems to imply that the writers were unsure of what the story was about. Is it about Frollo hating “G–sies” for being ‘Free’? Or Quasimodo overcoming his crippling fear of going outside not because of his visage but just because Frolo told him not to. Heck, they have one scene about Frolo looking for the Court of Miracles that explicitly conveys the opposite intention of the original film (He WANTS to crush them ‘one by one’ instead of crushing them all). It was just a weird world over all and nothing was given context. It was like reading a cliff notes version of the Disney movie with half the pages missing. Just weird.
Should You Get It?
If you’re a Kingdom Hearts fan and plan on playing the whenever-it-gets-done KH3? Definitely. Unless you already played it on the 3DS, because this version doesn’t add anything. It removes some non-essential stuff like AR Codes and Photo Taking of the Dream Eaters (there IS a photo mode but it just removes the UI for screen shotting) but this isn’t a “Final Mix” incarnation, just a HD remaster of the graphics and ported to a console. The follow up in the 2.8 collection, ‘Birth By Sleep 0.2 -A Fragmentary Passage-‘, also picks up literally right at the end of Dream Drop Distance’s Secret Ending, which might be spoilery if you haven’t played Dream Drop yet.
I’ve been tinkering with some of my work on FateStone again recently and it got me thinking that maybe since I do have this platform, I could share some of my notes and thoughts about working on the game with all of you.
There’s a lot of ways one can go about coming up with an RPG Maker game. Some folks just dive in and start creating, building as they go, some start with a story they’ve wanted to tell, and others begin with the characters. These are all valid ways of exploring the creative tools that something like RPG Maker MV offers up. Me though? I’m a planner. Always have been. I would keep lists and figures of milestones and objectives written down or in my head. I may not have ever gone as far as full blown theorycrafting in my WoW Raiding days but I did keep a list of drops I needed to work toward to get hit capped (Hit capping for the newer WoW players was a god awful mechanic where you needed to prioritize a now defunct ‘Hit’ stat just so you wouldn’t spend raid fights missing with every attack.)
So when it came to sit down and try to make an actual game, I didn’t open RPG Maker – I opened Google Sheets. My Google Drive is full of documents and spreadsheets all around creating a basic layout for what the game I want to make will entail. From how the crafting system will work, to a spreadsheet breakdown of items, crafting components for those items, effects for the items, and naturally the item id. I’ve done the same work for class skills, which is an impressive list of hundreds of skills for FateStone’s currently planned twenty classes. I mean, I just like to have everything down on paper for easy reference once I begin, regardless if a lot of stuff I’ve been working on is for later ‘phases’ of the development.
Currently, Phase 1 is just planned to only be the single starter city and the quests that take place there in. That includes a 3-floor dungeon built around the City Sewers and an ancient forgotten temple full of ghosts and skeletons hidden beneath the city, three city districts and the castle where the king lives. Because of course there’s a castle where the king lives. There’s a total of 5 recruit-able characters, namely because I wanted there to be some exploration of the ‘morality’ system and have different paths through the prologue based on your decisions. The Positive or “Astral” Path features the ability to recruit the Princess (Bard class) and a Knight and the Negative or “Chaos” path will feature the Rogue and the Mage NPCs. The others will be eventually recruit-able, but I wanted Phase I to have a full party by the end of the Prologue.
So just there alone that’s seven areas with subzones of buildings, etc. Five NPCs featuring an array of five different classes, not to mention your starting class that brings the total to six. Two branching paths with different quests. A half dozen or so different monsters of varying difficulty. Then items and shops to put them in.
…THAT is why I tend to go for the planning approach to things. Just this small prologue has so many different things to keep track of in terms of IDs, variables, values, and so on and so forth. I like being able to just flip open a spreadsheet and go “Ah, yes. That chest should have Item #52 in it.”
A few months back I picked up Super Mario Maker for my Wii U, and boy is that a fun way to kill some time. Whether I’m designing levels or just playing through random ones that other people made, I still have a blast every time. Well, almost every time. I’m not exactly a huge fan of those auto-Mario levels that play themselves. Or the musical levels that for some reason never and I mean NEVER sound like the song their supposed to be. I get that those kind of things have an audience and I know auto-Mario is a HUGE thing in other parts of the world and the game is built around an international audience but ya know, it just never really clicked with me. I never liked that kind of stuff in Little Big Planet either.
Anyway, I finally got around to uploading some of my more thoroughly tested levels to their online servers and I figured I’d share the level IDs on here for anyone who also enjoys some Mario Maker and wanted to try them out:
Don’t Get Phazed By the Maze!
Course ID: 71A2-0000-01AC-0388
Starting basic with a more classic feel, it slowly begins ramping up difficulties and challenging you to think in alternate ways before sending you into the maze proper. The maze has several paths, including a easy but tricky emergency bonus exit that rewards you with a hearty compliment to your endeavors and a straight shot to the top of the pole. Keep an eye out for hidden bonuses tucked away here and there.
Above, Below & WAY Below
Course ID: CFAA-0000-01AC-0AB2
The mentality of the ‘multiple paths’ in “Don’t Get Phazed By the Maze!” takes full force here. There are 3 separate paths per section with ample opportunities to cross between them. Difficult to reach paths on the ‘overworld’ are rewarded with easier paths in the ‘underworld’ areas. There are dozens of different combinations and methods to complete this level with hidden goodies to get you from here to there along the way. Can you find the best path?
Spooky with a Capital P Switch
Course ID: 6DB3-0000-01AC-1A9C
A short level built around a single P-Switch. The switch can make the level easier or more rewarding by either countering enemies or opening up new paths. Can you find the secret coin vault?
Do you have a Mario Maker level? Share your Course ID in the comments below! I’d love to try them out.
So regular readers are probably wondering where the rest of the class storyline reviews are. After all I teased that I was playing through the Smuggler story next and true to my word I got all the way through Chapter 3 on him. The reviews are actually outlined and in my draft pile. I always enjoyed the smuggler and I’m looking forward to writing those soon and then hopefully moving on to the final storyline: the Imperial Agent. However, I’m not going to lie – It may take me a while. See, on top of Knights of the Fallen Empire now out and enjoying that (Thinking of doing a Vry Plays after my Sim’s inevitable go bankrupt and start eating each other), I’ve also now got Metal Gear Solid V, and Fallout 4, the new patch of Final Fantasy XIV, and oddly enough among all of those things – World of Warcraft.
It’s odd. While I did decide to join my significant other in playing catch up through the Warlords of Draenor storyline (My take? It was nice, but the whole Alternate Universe thing lessened the impact to near pillow fight levels. Felt like it should have just been a novel.) and I did enjoy my brief playthrough, I haven’t honestly had a “hankering” to play the game since Mists of Pandaria. Yet, in the wake of the recent loss of a grandparent, and the depression that followed, I found myself turning to an old comfort. My little gnome death knight, my lawful good blood elf paladin, and even some of my low level toons. The game didn’t feel like a tedious trudge through the tides of futility like so many times before. It just felt like silly fun. Kind of like picking up a Mario game after a decade and just enjoying the simple run-jump mechanics.
But despite the level of comfort I felt when beating around the skulls of kobolds as Norris Brewshatter, Dwarven Shaman Extraordinaire, I found my mind pestering me. “Didn’t we say we were done with WoW?” “What about those Class Reviews?” “You have like four brand new games you haven’t finished yet.” And the thoughts hounded me as I played, and after I had logged out, and almost everything I saw or uttered the words ‘World of Warcraft’. I was at odds. This game was helping me. I was feeling better. I was starting to enjoy things again after the funeral. Should I abandon that for other things I should play in my diminished adulthood free time? And why only feel this way about WoW?
Maybe part of it is that World of Warcraft carries a heavy weight with it. It’s a name that actually means something to people outside of gaming circles. My sister may not know what Final Fantasy XIV: Heavensward is, or if Star Wars: The Old Republic is a game or a comic or a cartoon, but she knows World of Warcraft. She knows it for good and for ill. There’s stigmas associated with that game outside of gaming, and even bigger one’s inside of gaming. MMO gamers especially are very vocal about their opinions of what they like and dislike, and the fact that my site’s biggest draw is TOR, whose forums won’t even say ‘WoW’ but only refer to it ubiquitously as ‘That Other Game’ (Or they did, I will admit I don’t frequent the TOR forums very often anymore.) Is that why? I’m afraid that readers will leave my blog if they found out I was playing ‘The Other Game’? I hope not. My subconscious would be quite the vain thing then wouldn’t it?
Honestly, I can’t really say. I’ve been mulling it over for days trying to figure it out but ultimately I came to the conclusion that it doesn’t matter. I wrote this blog when it only had maybe 15 hits a day and most of those were Google Image Searches, I’ll still write it even if it gets back to there. I write because I like writing it and I have all these crazy weird thoughts while playing games, watching movies, or reading comics that I just want to share with anyone who will listen… er… read.
No, I think the real thing to keep in mind with all of this is that you should do what makes you happy. Even if others would turn away, or give you a weird look, or anything like that. Don’t worry about it. Just play what makes YOU happy. Let them play what makes them happy. The world can be cold, the night is dark, and we never really know how long we get to enjoy ourselves here on this big round madhouse. So play games you enjoy, with people you enjoy when you can, and even without them if they want to play something else that doesn’t interest you. Be happy. We all deserve that much. Games are supposed to be fun after all.
I’d like to dedicate this post to my departed grandmother, Carolyn, who I can never ever recall getting upset once in my life and of course to the ever cheery man my grandma loved to watch: Bob Ross.
Take care of yourself, and each other.
If there’s one thing we nerds enjoy, it’s canon. Is this canonical? Is that? Is my OTP canonical? How does X fit into the canon? One need not look any further than the reaction to the announcement that the Star Wars Expanded Universe being retired into the Legends label to see how much a concise and clearly stated canon can matter to people. So there gets to be this mindset among fans of just about anything that whatever is stated to be canon is something akin to a holy text that must be viewed as complete and immutable from whatever state a fan finds it in. And that last bit is important because what eventually sets the bar as ‘betraying’, ‘contradicting’ or ‘ignoring’ canon depends a great deal on exactly what state the canon was in when and how you first were exposed to it.
After all, while the Green Lantern Corps was introduced in 1959, the concept of the Emotional Spectrum and the other Lantern Corps like the Red Lanterns, or the Sinestro Corps, didn’t come into being until 2006, despite it beings established that these things were in existence all along but the Green Lanterns may not have been aware of them. If you were a fan before Geoff Johns’ new interpretation of the Green Lantern universe, you might find this idea a bit on the heretical side. After all, how could the Guardians not know/expose this info? How come it took decades of issues before it was revealed that Parralax was a big space bug that was sealed away and they knew about it but kinda didn’t want to bring it up? On the same hand, if you came after that or say first got interested in Green Lantern due to the Green Lantern Animated Series – then the Emotional Spectrum and the other Lanterns are just part of the universe to you. Easy peasy.
Already we can see that time and method can dictate the view of what is considered to be canon and what isn’t. Will new Star Wars fans a decade from now when the JJ Abrams Trilogy comes to a close even think that the Legends novels were anything more than interesting What-If stories? That the Yuuzhan Vong are nothing more than glorified fanfiction characters? Perhaps. But aside from fan-interpretation and viewpoints of canon, what about when canon is changed by the ones who created it?
If you want a good example of fans getting upset at a ‘violation’ of canon by the ones who write the story themselves, look no further than our good friends at Blizzard Entertainment. Almost every expansion is met with cries of ‘That’s not what this character would do’, ‘Blizzard doesn’t care about their own canon’ or ‘This violates their own lore’, etc. I’ve played World of Warcraft since 2006 off and on, and I’ve seen these complaints so many times I’ve lost count. But it always comes back to this idea that what WAS should be preserved in a little box, and left to the point where it is never changed or influenced. Heck, I remember people complaining about the difference in characterization between Warcraft III and Vanilla WoW, almost like there was some sort of inexplicable 5 year jump mentioned in first few seconds of the opening cut scene. These characters change, the situation changes, and the world moves forward. The Forsaken were pretty much born out of Sylvanas’ quest for revenge against the Lich King. You can’t very well expect them to stay the same after their sworn mortal enemy is dead.
There’s also the issue of the fact that since WE are aware of all the details of the story and lore, we often will forget that the characters don’t. A character may not know the truth of all the details, or even heard the news if its something that happened on the completely other side of the planet and thus will act according to what they know and not what WE know. The concept of ‘metagaming’ can extend to fiction too, ya know. So while things sometimes look like a violation of canon, it can honestly sometimes just be a matter of ‘the characters wouldn’t know that’. Back to World of Warcraft for example, it’s stated in some places that the Eredar corrupted the Titan Sargeras into turning evil, it’s later revealed upon meeting the Draenei – an exiled faction of the Eredar – that it was actually the reverse. Sargeras had corrupted the Eredar. Is this a retcon? Yes, but does it break canon? No. No one who originally told the tales of Sargeras & the Eredar would have been in the position to know the facts of the tale. They are legends and fables, passed down for generations. Now when they meet the Draenei? Well, heck, Velen was THERE. He knows. Now he’s explaining it. Now you have the myth, and the fact. That’s developing canon, not violating it.
Wanting a canon to stay rigid, to have nothing new enter or depart the scene and for characters to stay the same as when we first fell in love with them just is flat out bad for storytelling. Is BioWare futzing with their own lore with TOR? Yes. Yes they are. The story is moving forward, a new enemy is appearing from beyond the borders of the galaxy and using a vastly different technique of force wielding to pursue a mission of galactic conquest. Honestly, from a personal standpoint, it’s not nearly as conflicting as say KOTOR to KOTOR2 when in the space of 5 years the entire Jedi Order was completely wiped out leaving only a few stragglers like the Exile around. No wonder they decided to set SWTOR 295 years later. Yeesh.
Now I’m not saying there aren’t ways you can mess up canon. Even Blizzard has admitted to messing up with mixing up established facts and they have employees devoted to entire task of keeping this stuff straight. But there’s a difference between ‘This never before explained thing has appeared and is attacking’ or ‘This ancient prophecy we just uncovered is coming true!’ and things like ‘Superman was never from Krypton, he’s from Snorglack-VII and always has been. Ignore what we said earlier.’ (And heck there are even acceptable ways to do that with continuity reboots, and elaborate explanations, that might reek of B.S. aren’t technically violating canon.) There are times when you just screw up and forget that you’ve already established some detail, and there are times you introduce retcons that will devastatingly run in contrast to how a character is viewed (Did you Batman ALWAYS hated rock music because his Dad told him it was bad the night they died?) but there is also just the idea that you are expanding the story and the universe.
As fans we sometimes have the tendency to get a bit zealous with our devotion to what we know. We like the permanence of the whole thing. It feels good. But that’s not necessarily what’s best for the story. For a story to grow, canon must be altered and expanded. Maybe there were 9 planets, but due to later revelations there are now 8 (or like 25). Canon must always be somewhat flexible in order for things to move forward. And I think we as fans need to be flexible with it.
Thanks for reading.
I LOVE Kingdom Hearts. Love it to pieces. Ever since I picked up the first one way back in college, I’ve done my best to try and play every single one. But that’s not easy with the insane cross platform releases. Some on the Game Boy, some on the PSP, and hey what about the one that was only available on Japanese mobile phones? That’s got to be an easy one to nab right? (Well, actually yea.) But even if you got them all, what order do all these go in? It’s clear they’re not chronological right? Well, with the announcement of Kingdom Hearts 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue (A weird and long title that is at least more descriptive than Ground Zeroes) set to be released on the Playstation 4 sometime in 2016, I figured I’d do a quick little handy right up for folks like me who are trying to figure out what order all these things come in.
0: Kingdom Hearts χ & Back Cover – Set before the events of the Keyblade War, the Chi games tell the story of the events that lead up to the War and the beginnings of the struggle between Light and Dark.
0.1: Birth by Sleep – Surrounding the adventures of three Keyblade Knights, the generation of wielders before Sora. Their adventures set the stage for the main games and explain the backstory for several series main characters & villains.
0.2: Birth by Sleep: A Fragmentary Passage – A short episode that takes places immediately following the events of the Birth By Sleep Secret Ending. Told through the framing device of Mickey telling the tale post-Dream Drop Distance.
1: Kingdom Hearts – The first game in the main ‘numbered’ series. The story of Sora, Donald, and Goofy trying to defeat the Heartless and find their friends.
1.5 – Chain of Memories & 358/2 Days – These two are occurring roughly simultaneously as the events of Chain of Memories are referenced as happening at the moment in 358/2 Days. Chain of Memories follows Sora & Riku and sets up the situation for Kingdom Hearts II, while 358/2 Days does the same but for the villains of that story: Organization XIII.
2: Kingdom Hearts II – Sora’s second grand adventure introduces us properly to the concept of the Nobodies and the battle against Organization XIII.
2.25: Re:Coded – Explores and is connected to several of the concepts from throughout the series: The fates of the characters from Birth By Sleep and their relationship to Sora, the Book of Prophecies from Chi, and sets up the beginning of Sora and Riku’s journey to become Keyblade Masters. It’s recommended to view the KH2.5 HD ReMix version of Re:Coded as it includes several important story scenes that are only available in this version.
2.5: Dream Drop Distance – Details the trials of Sora and Riku trying to earn their Master’s Marks to become Keyblade Masters, and dives more into Ansem’s plans and the true purpose of the Organization.
3: Kingdom Hearts III – Set to be released some day, this has been quoted by Nomura as the final chapter of Sora’s story in the Kingdom Hearts universe.
Now I’m just going to say that playing all of these games in chronological order may not be the best idea for new comers to the series. There’s a lot of these titles that will reference concepts or characters introduced in other games that technically take place later in the series. For example, Birth By Sleep was originally released after Kingdom Hearts II. So it is written and presented in a way that assumes some level of familiarity with Kingdoms Hearts 1, 2, Chain of Memories and 358/2 Days. However for those who are familiar with the series and want to see how the story unfolds in order, or don’t mind being confused for a couple of games as things start to snap together, this should prove to be about as interesting as coming to the Star Wars Saga fresh and watching them in order. In short: enlightening if nothing else.
Unfortunately such a grand experiment will have to wait until Kingdom Hearts 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue comes out next year. Hopefully it will be released with enough time between it and Kingdom Hearts III that we can play all 9 other installments in order before then.
So we’ve talked gameplay and we’ve talked plot & characters – I think it’s time we wrap up the Lightning Trilogy with discussing probably my favorite part of Lightning Returns: the ending. Not because it’s finally over oh sweet Noel Kreiss it’s over, but because I found it to be a satisfying conclusion to the overarching themes of the trilogy, even when the explicit details of the plot got a bit weird from game to game. Let’s just go ahead and say that since we are talking the ending of a trilogy and then discussing said trilogy, there will be SPOILERS.
Alright, so as we previously discussed: God is gathering up souls of the chosen using Lightning as his ‘Savior’, he will then usher those new souls to a New World and remove their hearts/chaos/emotions, then he will let the old world and all the souls of the dead there perish so that no one remembers any of them – the world or the people who died there – all so he can have HIS perfect world. I don’t think it needs to be said, but Lightning and her friends do not exactly like that idea.
The ending to the game and the trilogy as a whole is done essentially in four parts. There is the final dungeon, the final boss battle, the cutscene where you actually beat the final boss, and then the final final cutscene. To get to the final dungeon on the last day (that’s Day 13 – or if you ran around and did 60+ side quests it will be Day 14), you show up at the church in Luxerion to bust up the ritual with Fang. Lightning holds back the guards while Fang talks down Vanille from doing the deed. Luckily back up arrives in the form of Snow who proves that despite being a dummy at times is still able to deliver an epic smackdown. Snow is joined by Lightning’s other friends as it becomes one last stand as Vanille and Fang come together to guide all the lost souls – not to their destruction as the Church wanted but to Hope’s Ark to go be reborn on the New World with all the others.
Lightning’s job is not done however. There is after all a god to deal with. She enters the final dungeon which to be fair is essentially four monster filled corridors and a door leading to the final fight. I’m not even sure you have to do the corridors – or ‘Trials’ – but I always do because they reward you with the Ultima Weapon and Ultima Shield, the two items that will not carry over to a new game+ because they are “story specific” to Bhunivelze’s temple. Unfortunately, they don’t get any kind of cool unique appearance. The Ultima items are pretty much just your starting sword and shield upgraded to have INSANE stats and abilities that will help immensely in the final boss fight.
Speaking of which, it’s time to show down with Bhuni-boy who is in an otherworldly realm dubbed ‘Cosmogenesis’ where he is putting the finishing touches on his New World and you finally get to see what this guy looks like:
Oh… oh wow. For the record, that checker pattern ‘skirt’? Yea, that’s the ground. He’s literally wrapped the world around himself. It’s at this confrontation that the truth emerges to reinforce the theory: Bhunivelze wishes to remove all the old souls and the bits of chaos that make up people’s hearts and emotions so that the New Humans on his New World will have euphoric peaceful lives without the burdens of sadness or pain. They’ll be boring emotionless drones, but hey that’s the cost of never having to feel bad: never feeling at all. I honestly don’t know if I would take that offer. I can imagine some who would argue that it’s a good thing and that God is kind to give us such a blessing. Then again free will is nice. Like SUPER nice. He also reveals his plan to establish Lightning as the ‘New Etro’ to guard over the Unseen Realm and keep it in harmony with the Seen Realm. Again, Lightning being someone he has a leash on as compared to his mother or Etro, both of which kind of had reasons to hold a grudge and good old Bhunie just loves to assume the worst. Finally, it’s revealed that the Serah ‘soul’ that Bhunie has been dangling on a hook in front of Lightning this whole time is just a mocked up simulacrum. Since God has no way of seeing into the Chaos, he legitimately has no idea where Serah’s soul actually is but is perfectly willing to offer the soulless copy of Lightning’s sister for her to dote on. This pretty much where Lightning draws the line.
Lightning flat out declares her intent to kill God. To perform one suicidal action to throw them both into the Chaos and free the souls to live in the New World without gods or fal’Cie masters. Since Bhunivelze made her the savior with the intent to become a replacement for Etro, she may not have the power to kill Bhunivelze but she is finally strong enough to do this one desperation act. But the Serah Simulacrum speaks to her and tells her that the real Serah IS still out there, and does still need her. So thus begins the final battle, as Lightning abandons her suicide run in favor of just flat out trying to murder God. Oh boy. When was the last time in Final Fantasy we actually killed God? Not like a god-like being, but the actual creator of the universe capital-G God? We’d have to go back a ways I think. I know we did in Final Fantasy Legends. Kefka is debatable whether he was god like or actually ascended to become God proper but you do fight and kill the actual Gods of Magic. Dissidia has you fighting Gods. But yea, it’s been a while since we did this.
The fight is massive and spans four different phases, each with a unique strategy to them. Easily up there with Barthandelus and Orphan from XIII as the toughest non-Super Bosses fights in the Trilogy. Not only that, but his fight has a ton of references to previous Final Fantasy games such as some of his attacks referencing the Emperor’s Starfall from Final Fantasy II, Almagest as used by Neo-ExDeath in Final Fantasy V, Hypernova based on Safer Sephiroth’s Supernova from Final Fantasy VII, several attacks including ‘Dancing Mad’, ‘Wings of Destruction’, and ‘Heartless Angel’ are inspired by either the abilities or even theme song of Kefka from Final Fantasy VI, and finally Bhunivelze’s pose in the final phase is based on the pose struck by the Cloud of Darkness in Final Fantasy III. He also draws several abilities and strategies from other bosses in the Lightning Trilogy. He’s immune to every status effect including poison, so forget using the poison and defend strategy from Orphan in the first game. Finally, he has several abilities that will drop you to either one or close to one HP regardless of your defense. And all that is just on the normal version. Oh yes, there’s a hard mode incarnation of this guy named Bhunivelze+. I haven’t even tried that one yet.
So after four whole phases on intense fights is God finally dead? Oh heck no. Bhunivelze created the universe (well along with his Mom), do you think four measly back to back fights will stop him? It will knock him on his ass, but he crawls back ready to kill Lightning for the sheer insolence she has shown. Luckily, Lightning has the one thing that Bhuni-boy doesn’t: Buddies. Yes, this pen-ultimate cut scene has the entire assembled cast of the entire trilogy: Snow, Sazh, Dajh, Hope, Vanille, Fang, Noel, Caius, Yuel, and even Serah appear to help Lightning strike down God while utilizing all of the Souls of the Living gathered by Lightning and the Souls of the Dead gathered by Vanille as a giant sword of light to strike down Bhunivelze once and for all in an epic final blow worthy of Dragon Ball Z levels of sheer ridiculous epicness.
Bhunivelze’s death chimes in the death of the old universe however as the Unseen Realm and its tides of chaos begin to consume all that is left. Caius and Yuel, both tired of their eternal struggle and cycle of life and death have agreed to stay behind and together serve the role that Etro once served. But because Noel also wants a happy ending, Yuel gives him the last of her line – the final incarnation of Yuel in her cycle of Rebirth to take with him to the new universe. With a new keeper of the Unseen Realm appointed, all that’s left is for the remaining team and all the souls to go to the new world in a brilliant stream of green lights and streaks that sort of looks like something that once helped stop a meteor from crushing a city (Yet another homage to an earlier game found here. They really seem to enjoy the send ups.)
This brings us to the real ending of the series. Claire Farron, the women once known as Lightning in another time and place, riding a train through what appears to be modern day France to go meet up with her friends once again. It’s never flat out stated what this new world is, but theories have been as far flung as Gaia from Final Fantasy VII (Which considering there’s already a theory about Gaia is futuristic Spira from FFX, how does that work?) to Our Real Earth to the more modern and realistic setting of Final Fantasy XV. Any and all are somewhat valid ways of viewing things, but the Real Earth seems to be the most likely since they do establish this as a world with No God, and No fal’Cie. The FF7 connection is really reaching because all that connects them is the vaguely lifestream-y looking stream of souls, which has less traction then FF7 == FFX because Spheres are Materia idea. We know that XV will have its own ties to the Fabula Nova Crystalis legend and that Etro will play some role in the story, so the No gods/fal’cie thing makes that one hard. Plus… the signs are in French. Like actual French. Not even French sounding gibberish. So that’s my best bet for where the ending takes place.
So with the story now finished, was it really worth it to play some 180 hours of game to reach that conclusion? Well… yea. For me it was. For all the game play issues, which really were improved on heavily after the feedback and criticisms of the first game (and even then most of those were – in my opinion – excusable to the nature of the story being told but admittedly flew in the face of what many people would expect from a Final Fantasy title), I found the story to be an incredible interesting and character driven narrative. To the point where it utterly baffles me when I hear people say the characters are boring or bland. There’s a difference between bland and subtle. This is very subtle. Not to mention the characters and their development is incredibly well rounded compared to many of the more popular Final Fantasy entries where the characters were almost defined by a single personality trait. Optimisitc! Bad ass loner! Angry! Moron! Where as in the XIII trilogy, there were a lot of nuanced performances built around knowing these characters back stories and motivations. Vanille is not a ditsy airhead. She puts on a ditsy act as an act of denial about the immense guilt she feels, something that is quite noticeable if you contrast how she behaves around the others versus when she’s by herself. The scene where it begins to dawn on her that her traveling companion, Sazh, has lost his son because of her actions and very existence, that she goes out and stands in the rain under the excuse to feel it on her skin but if you look, she’s trying to mask the tears coming down her face was a real punch in the feels. Even Snow, the king of bravado, is dealing with the tragedy of his curse and the loss of his fiance by blindly marching forward like a hero to save the day, running from his problems. But eventually, when he has lost Serah completely and the world is dying around him, he succumbs to depression and begins to slowly kill himself with a final silent noble act of absorbing the Chaos into his own body to try and give the people of Yusnaan another day of happiness before the end. Something he couldn’t do for Serah, despite all his trying. The characters are THE reason to play through these games. Just remember that the subtext is just as important, if not more, than what they are actually saying and doing.
The trilogy also has a great overarching theme of the desire for free will and fighting against your fate, and the need to preserve it even if free will means doing something stupid, or getting hurt by your choices or actions. In the first game, the message is very direct. The fal’Cie have literally stripped the main six from having any autonomy in their actions. It’s complete the focus or be doomed to be a cie’th for eternity. Even if you complete the focus, all it means is getting stored in crystal until the fal’Cie want you to do something again. You become a slave to these god-like creatures for all eternity, or suffer a fate worse than death. The reaction to this is each character walking their own path to try and preserve their free will – be it by running away to do whatever they want to actively trying to kill their new ‘masters’. Ultimately, the sheer strength of their freedom overcomes the chains. Something that seems weird but makes perfect sense in the context of the mythology: humans are the only creatures capable of Free Will thanks to Etro. It’s an X factor that the fal’Cie literally can’t comprehend and only out of fear, myth, faith, and sheer power have managed to control their thralls to this point. There are thousands of years of stories about the fal’Cie and their l’Cie and what happens. Your promised eternal life and happiness in a crystal dream for completing your focus. To many it’s consider a downright honor to be chosen. Why? Because that’s the belief the fal’Cie have worked to create in humans so they obey. When these six broke that control and killed Orphan, they proved that the fal’Cie only have as much power over the human spirit as we let them. That in the end, our focus and our destiny is for us to decide.
In the second game, the nature of free will and even more so the concept of fighting destiny is explored through the idea of time and the question of is the future set in stone? Serah and Noel each want to change something. Serah wants to change the past, and Noel the future to get what they want. However, it’s shown that their actions do have a very real cost in the end. Changing the future, striking out and making your own path, is what is killing Yuel and ultimately Serah as well. Serah chooses to risk death to get a future where everyone can be happy. However, with each life of Yuel’s reincarnation that gets extinguished the Chaos also grows and threatens everything. It becomes a question of risk vs. reward. Are you willing to put it all on the line to get what you really want? You have free will to make your own destiny, but that can come back and bite you.
Those repercussions are fully explored in Lightning Returns, which feature’s the titular character faced with the decision of asking which is preferable: Euphoria with no free will or free will with suffering? You are constantly bombarded with stories of loss and misery through the side quests and main story, but are told that this can be avoided by simply casting aside your emotions and freedom and living in peace for all eternity. But you also see stories of love, compassion, and those who despite facing the end of all things choose to keep pressing on and living their lives to the fullest. There’s a kid who just wants to pass his hunting trials and become a man of his clan before the end comes. What does it matter? In the grand scheme it doesn’t but to him it’s everything. Fang is fighting to save her friend, Sazh to save his son, Snow to protect the people – all knowing that there are only 13 days left, they still choose to fight to live. Lightning’s ultimate choice is that freedom is more important than a guaranteed happiness. To that end, she kills God and frees everyone to have whatever life they choose to have. Even Caius who was given no choice in becoming a guardian, no agency in whether he lives or dies thanks to the Heart of Etro or the Yuels, finally gets to choose to stay in the Unseen Realm. Really, there was no need for him to go, but he didn’t want the Yuels to be alone.
The only thing I do wish they had done was keep the song from the first game going through the whole trilogy. While only included in the western release, Leona Lewis’ “My Hands” is a song that strongly resonates with both Lightning and Serah that only strengthens as the trilogy goes on. The song’s solemn lyrics of longing and missing another person while having to go on without them becomes even more poignant by the third game when you start coming face to face with just how many people are now trapped in time, forced to live eternally, after losing loved ones to the slowly dying monster ravaged world and expanding chaos. Sadly, the song is only featured on the first game where it sort of resonates with Lightning’s quest to get her sister back but doesn’t live up to its full potential.
So is the Trilogy a flawless masterpiece? Hardly. The story is confusing and told is a jarring all-over-the-place style that requires copious amounts of reading extra content to follow any of the over arching narrative. The gameplay – especially for the first game – can be boring and tedious and will definitely be a huge turn off to fans of the previous games (even though I’ll admit that the ‘run a straight path and fight monsters’ is pretty much the exact same style as the critically and fan adored Final Fantasy X). It is a flawed trilogy of games and I will admit that. But that doesn’t mean I think it should be tossed aside and forgotten to the annals of history. There is a lot of great content here: Wonderful stories, brilliantly well rounded characters, and a fascinating mythology behind it all. The second game explores a lot of the same ideas that Chrono Trigger fans would find very much right at home and the third game has a truly engaging time-based system and active combat system that has a ton of optional stuff to explore and is short enough to encourage multiple playthroughs with a new game+ feature.
My recommendation is while I can’t wholly endorse these games at $60 a pop, if you can nab them used or new at a decent price (I only paid $15 for the first two, and got Lightning Returns new at release) I would recommend nabbing them. If you really want to skip the first one, I can’t blame you. There’s a decent enough recap in the Extras menu of XIII-2 that will bring you up to speed but you will miss some excellent character writing that comes later in the first game. These games also serve as a firm full exploration of the Fabula Nova Crystalis mythology and covers everything from Bhunivelze to his fal’Cie, Pulse, Lindzei and Etro, the concepts of the Seen and Unseen realms, and of course the idea of the l’Cie that plays a big role in Final Fantasy Type-0 and assuredly in the upcoming Final Fantasy XV. Remember, the mythology is the only thing shared between the three and you’ll get no better crash course in that than from the XIII trilogy.
So that’s the end of my look at the hated XIII trilogy. I don’t know if I changed anyone’s minds but hopefully I showed that there’s a bit more to these three games than what appears on the surface. I know I discounted the games pretty harshly at first when I first rented the first one to give it a go back in the day, but after a second look was quite impressed with what I found. I’d also like to take this opportunity to thank all my readers and oddly enough Noah ‘The Spoony One’ Antwiler whose incredibly biased albeit hilariously entertaining reviews of the Final Fantasy games he doesn’t like inspired me to look deeper into these games and see if they were truly that bad. They’re not in my opinion. Hell, not even Final Fantasy X. I mean, I didn’t like X as much, but it wasn’t garbage by any means. Anyway, if you want a chuckle with someone ripping apart the games and riffing a lot of the admittedly silly parts, check it out. I’ll be here finishing up class reviews for SWTOR, replaying Metal Gear while waiting for my PS4 to get repaired and trying to finish out Type-0 HD.
Stay weird, folks.
While I continue to work on my SWTOR class reviews proper, the summaries for all of the various class stories are pretty much done. I decided to tackle yet another project. With the launch of Final Fantasy XIV: Heavensward, I realized how many people were probably coming back to the game and that with as much space as there is between patches, some folks may not recall exactly what happened in the story leading up the expansion. Especially since Final Fantasy XIV significantly expanded the main scenario storyline with each patch. So I thought, how about a summary for that too?
Announcing the Realm Reborn Story Summary!
Unlike the SWTOR story summaries, this one is chock full of SPOILERS, so be warned before reading down the page. After all, the SWTOR page was mostly designed as a spoiler free way of seeing if the storyline would interest you before sinking 50 levels into the narrative but Final Fantasy it’s more of a catch up/reminder tool. It’s heavily summarized so don’t expect too much in the way of a point-by-point quest-by-quest breakdown. It also assumes you have some familiarity with names and places in the world of Final Fantasy XIV. Though some reoccuring elements such as Hydaelyn and the Primals are explained somewhat.
Anyway, I hope you Final Fantasy XIV fans get a kick out of it. It’s broken down by patch, so you can go and read just the parts you want. I plan to expand it into including stuff like the story for the raid content that is now kind of outdated with the expansion, so I don’t know if as many people will get a chance to see the AWESOME tribute raid to Final Fantasy III: The Crystal Tower or the lore filled bits of the Coils content.